"You never try, you never know" is the catchcry from the mischievous doorman who revels in wielding a cane as he invites passersby in to Bar Bar, one of just two fetish houses in Bangkok. They are the very same words ladyboys are known to pout, reserved for the truly kinky. Feeling that life has been rather quiet of late and my mundane existence unbefitting of someone living in such an exciting city, it was time to add a little spice in my life. It was time to revisit Bar Bar.
The Bar Bar girls take their turns to stand outside and promote the venue. The way they are dressed leaves you in no doubt that this is not your regular Patpong bar.
The decor in the small foyer sets the scene as skulls, mannequins and fetish photos adorn the walls, highlighting the pleasures that await those who dare climb the stairs.
Bar Bar's pricing system sets it apart from other bars. Those in to fetish have no issue with the pricing and make the valid point that it keeps out time-wasters, balloon chasers and voyeurs. The prices listed are for walk-ins; purchasing a package and becoming a member effectively halves the prices.
At the top of the stairs you arrive in a large room – part dungeon, part horror movie set with matching music to boot. It's candlelight only – much darker than the photo suggests – so dark in fact that someone could be sitting just a few feet away and you would neither see them nor know what they were up to, noises coming from their direction notwithstanding.
The main area is open, with a bar along one wall. There are a variety of props from cages to sofas as well as various items which I recognise as tools, but am informed are in fact toys. Slaves wait in eager anticipation of being chosen by a mistress or a master.
Candles, skulls and the other tools and toys are not just for decoration, they are an integral part of the fetish experience.
Beyond the main area are themed rooms where participants can seek greater privacy. The tiny Japanese room in which only a midget could stand up is like a miniature version of Soi Cowboy's Bacarra, 2-storey and complete with glass ceiling.
If you should happen to overdo it, the house has its own emergency room equipped with a wheelchair, a stethoscope, nurses, whips and chains.
Care to play doctors and nurses?
Bar Bar follows the Premier League philosophy of recruiting – employees are selected primarily for their skills and proven experience.
Those who prefer a more mainstream form of adult entertainment may feel the fetishists have a few miles on the clock. There are some diamonds in the rough, with the looks to succeed in chrome pole bars. For genuine aficionados it's not about the looks, but the actions.
The girls like to play and put on a show. Customers can observe; the more daring join in.
The relationship between slaves and mistresses reminds me of the incarcerated white collar criminal who lands a hardcore career criminal as a cellmate. Unlike life behind bars fetishism is role play, but the same rules of power and control apply, the strong exercising their power over the weak.
Fetishism is about deriving pleasure from certain objects or situations that most generally don't derive pleasure from. Slave or mistress, dominant or submissive, each party derives pleasure from their respective role.
In my very limited understanding of fetishism, there appears to be a small overlap between fetishism and sex, but in many ways they are very different. Where sex is often about release, I have yet to get my head around fetish, at least the end game.
Things can get spicy and what is on the menu is unlike that found elsewhere. It's very much an acquired taste, not, say, in the way that a connoisseur genuinely appreciates a $100 bottle of wine over a $10 bottle, more perhaps like a restaurant that lists items on the menu that you expect to see in a zoo.
After exploring the main area I can't help feeling there is more to the place. How could a venue that feels like a cross between Dracula's castle and a backstreet '80s knockshop not have hidden passageways and secrets known only amongst those truly versed in the concept?
Before I head for the relative sanity of the Patpong Market, I take a look over my shoulder to see odd rituals taking place and cannot work out from the sounds whether it's pleasure or pain.
There are many things on this earth I can't get my head around and fetishism is near the top of the list. I have zero desire to nibble on rice field feet, nor do I want to pour hot wax over someone or worse still, have them pour hot wax over me. OK, so it's not actually that hot at all…umm, errr, so they tell me! Fetishism has a following and if everyone is a willing participant, I say why not. If you're fetish-curious, or you simply want to spice up your life one night, take a trip to Patpong and check out Bar Bar. As the doorman says, if you never try, you never know…
* Bar Bar is located at the Silom Road end of Patpong soi 2, right next door to The Strip. In the interests of transparency, the venue does not currently advertise on this site and the owner is not a friend per se, but someone I know, like and have great respect for.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken on Sukhumvit soi 3, looking down the soi towards the main Sukhumvit Road with the JW Marriott Hotel and the Nana Hotel in the distance. Just like last week's photo, this week's is somewhere in central Bangkok.
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Defining freedom.
Increased purchasing power relative to what they could afford in their home countries leads many Westerners living in Thailand to conclude that they have more freedom in Thailand. But we must distinguish between freedom in the sense of having the right to perform an action, versus freedom in the sense of having the means to perform said action; the West affords its citizens a greater degree of the former kind of freedom, whereas farangs living in Thailand have more of the latter. For example, any farang living in the West has the right to hire taxis instead of taking public transportation, to pay a maid to clean his apartment daily, to pay to eat every meal at a restaurant, to hire a personal trainer, and to pay to get traditional massages every day. But the majority of farangs living in the West do not regularly use these services, because they cannot afford to. It is not a question of having the right to do these things; it is rather a question of having the means i.e. money to do them. By contrast, when one of these same farangs moves to Thailand – and assuming his income remains the same – he finds that his purchasing power increases dramatically. So, whereas a 7 km taxi ride in London would run the equivalent of THB 970, in Bangkok it costs only THB 70. Likewise, while daily maid service in New York City might cost THB 20,000 per month, in Bangkok it runs only THB 1,000. The same holds for eating at restaurants instead of cooking at home, hiring a personal trainer, and getting massages: each of these is far more affordable in Thailand than it is in the West. But farangs living in Thailand should not mistake this increased purchasing power for an increase in their rights. After all, they had the right to avail themselves of these services in the West; they lacked, however, the means to afford them. Given, then, that rights to, say, freedom of speech and freedom from arbitrary police searches are far less extensive in Thailand than they are in the West, and that Western countries afford their citizens the right to engage in nearly any activity and avail themselves of nearly any service, it follows that Westerners living in their home countries have more rights than do farangs who choose to live in Thailand. But the latter group feels like it has more freedom because it can afford these activities and services, whereas most of the former cannot. Does this make the West a better place to live than Thailand? Not necessarily. But it does illustrate the importance of clarifying what we mean by freedom.
Different continent, different ideas.
I went into my local Hooters in Calgary for a quick drink the other night. It was really quiet, so one of the Hooters girls sat down for a chat with me. I offered to buy her a drink, but she told me that the management didn't allow the girls to accept drinks from customers. I told her that in Thailand the system in bars is that you can buy the bar girls a drink when they sit and talk to you, and the girls get a cut. She thought that was a great idea and said that she wished they had that system in Canada. She didn't think it was such a good idea when I explained to her that for a few more dollars you can bring the girl back home with you and bang her silly!
The onward ticket rule is enforced from time to time.
It was a timely read about the onward travel dilemma in your latest column as I got caught at Narita Airport a few weeks ago when returning to Bangkok from Tokyo. After some kicking and screaming, I was allowed to board after I signed a waiver absolving the airline from any responsibility should I be denied entry in to Thailand. I didn't see it coming because I had made many return trips to other countries from the Kingdom before. I suspect I was in possession of a tourist visa those times and that makes all the difference.
The changing Thermae.
I first went to the Thermae around 10 years ago and I was quite popular. Not any more! I couldn't get a conversation going at all. The girls are made up to appeal to Asian tastes – hairstyles and dresses – so after going to all this trouble I guess they don't want to waste time with us. The funny thing is that I was there about a year ago and whilst mainly catering to Asian guys then, I didn't get the cold shoulder I got last night. I guess it's not on our radar any longer. I don't want to seem racist – but I felt somewhat discriminated against. As I left I saw an old lady at the top of the stairs outside who used to tee up girls inside. I asked her what she was doing and she said she had been fired as she was too old. She is now reduced to begging. I gave her a few baht. Sad.
Thumbs up for government hospitals.
I feel that I must reply to comment about Thai government hospitals. Twice I have been operated on in a government hospital. The first for a prostrate clean-up and the second was a hip replacement. For the consultation I must admit it required some patience due to the number of patients, but once at the front of the queue the surgeon was very professional and had me ready to get operated on in 2 days. The op went without any problem and after 3 days I was back home. The prostrate clean-up cost 18,000 baht for everything. My hip replacement followed the same pattern and the only real difference was that I had to wait for 3 weeks. Before the op I had to go through a complete check-up ECG / blood screen and chest X-ray. The operation was successful and I was driving after the 3rd day. The total cost including prosthesis was 110,000 baht (prosthesis 85,000 baht). All the nursing staff were very professional and operating staff excellent. The only thing was the ward had 16 beds and they were full all the time. I would recommend the government hospital at Chachoengsao to anyone, especially those like myself of 75 years with no health insurance.
The world is going crazy!
The most popular daily newspaper in the UK is The Sun. It can be bought by any person, regardless of age. On page 3 of the newspaper is a photo of a topless model. At Starbucks in London, copies of The Sun are available for customers, regardless of age, to read with their coffee etc. Starbucks offers a free wi-fi service for their customers. You can also access the Internet in Starbucks if you have an internet-capable mobile phone. If you have and you want to read Stickman then you can do so without a problem. If you use Starbucks' internet connection, while sitting next to someone looking at your site using their own internet connection, then you can't. Starbucks in the UK has blocked StickmanBangkok.com on the grounds that it is pornographic! They supply newspapers for customers with topless models, yet your site has never shown so much as a nipple!
The West isn't so bad after all.
Since returning from Asia I am happy with life in the west. It is less stressful, safer (crime, banking, regulatory issues, health, you name it) and cheaper – and I live in one of the more expensive western cities. Life is much more chilled out, developed and settled here. The best thing about it is we can sit back and reflect in the west that we really are in the best parts of the world and not have that "itch" to head east anymore. It just isn't worth it. Extraordinary when you reflect on it, but very true as far as I am concerned.
Girl of the week
Erika, escort with PureBangkokEscorts.com.
Just before lunch time this past Monday, fire broke out upstairs in Soi Cowboy's Bacarra. The fire department attended and the flames visible through a hole in the bar's frontage were quickly put out. Just how bad damage to the bar is remains unclear. The cause of the fire has not been revealed and while some have mentioned skullduggery, I imagine the local propensity of overloading the electrical system and poor wiring were most likely contributing factors. The fire was photographed by girls who live above other bars on the soi and as those photos and word quickly spread, staff from Bacarra flocked to the soi to see it with their own eyes. As dancers assembled outside the bar they watched as tables, chairs and parts of the booths were removed while inside the big cleanup began. The gogo bar proper was closed for 2 days and the downstairs section reopened mid-week. For the time being the upstairs sections remains closed. How long until it reopens remains unknown. The patio bar never closed and was open every night as per usual. It's bad timing for Bacarra which is probably the most popular bar in Bangkok amongst the Japanese aficionados of gogo bars – and with this being Golden Week there are heaps of Japanese flying in to Bangkok. I expect other Japanese favourites like Rainbow 1, Rainbow 4 and Shark have had a bumper week.
Sad news this week with the confirmation of what many us feared – that Canadian author Dave Walker who had gone missing in Cambodia was found dead. Not seen since mid-February, Dave's body was discovered this past Thursday at the Angkor Wat temples by a Cambodian child. The initial examination of the body at the scene didn't show any clear evidence of how Dave died and a pathologist will travel across from Bangkok to perform an autopsy.
Girls move around from bar to bar all the time and for any of a number of reasons. Sometimes it's because they fall out with a mamasan; other times because a good friend leaves and they follow. While girls change bars they tend to remain in the same bar area – so if your favourite bargirl has disappeared and you're desperately trying to find her, check other bars in that bar area. There has, for example, been a lot of movement of girls between Club Electric Blue and The Strip, 2 bars separated by 30 metres in Patpong soi 2. Girls go from one to the other and often back again. The girl below was girl of the week a few months back when she was dancing at Club Electric Blue and can now be found at The Strip. Don't be surprised if she is back at Club Electric Blue before too long!
Bars can get away with – even thrive – with less attractive girls *if* the bar has a fun vibe. It has been proven that high drinks prices don't necessarily put people off and dodgy sound systems and even dodgier music playlists won't keep customer away if there are other compelling reasons to stay. But there's one corner bars cannot cut and if they do, they suffer – and that is failing to provide a cool bar. And I am afraid to say that that message does not seem to have got through to some. G Spot (now known as Candy Land) died not because the bar had a bunch of fatties on stage (that didn't help), but primarily because the air-conditioning broke down and wasn't fixed until the bar changed hands, format and name. The solution to the problem was to put a bunch of fans in the bar, some pointed at the stage and others at customers. It has happened again and this time it's Cascade on the top floor of the plaza where the air-conditioning has died. The Nana Group, operators of Cascade, have been trying to fix it but when they fix one problem with the air-conditioning system they discover another. Customers are voting with their feet and choosing other bars in the plaza. I guess the saving grace for 95% of Stickman readers is that you probably don't go to Cascade, it being a ladyboy bar. Air-conditioning units break down – anyone living in Thailand knows that – but failing to get it fixed quickly won't do a business's reputation any good and there is the risk that customers will venture elsewhere, find places they like which they otherwise might not have found, and be lost as customers to the original business all together. Cascade's air-conditioning woes are all over the ladyboy forums and the bar's reputation is taking a hammering.
If you're planning on visiting Thailand in July, note that the general election will be held on Sunday July 20th which means that advance voting will take place the week before, on July 13th. The most likely result is that on the weekend of Saturday 12th / Sunday 13th July, and the weekend of Saturday 19th / Sunday 20th July, bars will not be able to sell alcohol from 6 PM Saturday until midnight Sunday. The bars may open, or they may not…no-one can be sure until nearer the time. Effectively it means that 2 weekends in July won't be great for those who like to hit the bars. In Bangkok, Patpong is pretty much open every day of the year but elsewhere, who knows? It's a general election which means that it is nationwide and not limited to Bangkok. Making things worse, the advance voting date happens to coincide with the date of the World Cup Final. Could it be that bars will be closed on the night of the biggest sporting event of the year, in a country that is football mad? Notwithstanding that the games are scheduled to be played at the worst possible time for those of us watching in Thailand, for bars and bar patrons alike it would be a disaster if bars could not open the day and night of the World Cup Final.
I notice more and more restaurants are offering shisha / hookah pipes and amazingly some enclosed bars have got in on it. What on earth possesses gogo bars such as Queens Club in Pattaya's Soi LK Metro to allow customers to smoke these huge great hookah pipes *inside* the bar?! Do bar staff not realise they are even worse for non-smokers than regular cigarette smoking? Such bars should be a place for hookers, not hookahs!
Calling the Dirty Doctor, you need to come out of retirement – the fake monks are back on Sukhumvit Road! Long-time readers may recall the exposure of fake monks on Sukhumvit and their eventual disappearance which must have been back around 2009. Any monk who attempts to solicit a donation is almost certainly not the real deal.
A number of novels set in Bangkok's bar areas, or to the backdrop of Farang guy / Thai gal liaisons have been said to be soon coming to the silver screen. But after the initial reports that such and such a (usually big name) producer is interested in the script, nothing happens and we never hear about it again. From the Bangkok expat fiction genre Private Dancer, Christopher G. Moore's Calvino series and The Big Mango have all been talked about as becoming movies, but it has never happened. What usually happens is that the option is bought, the script does the rounds in Hollywood, interest is shown, name actors / directors are talked about and that's the end of it. With Bangkok half a world away from Hollywood and our fair city not always seen in the best light in the West, one can understand why none of these novels has yet been made in to a movie. There are serious question marks over whether they would make a decent return. What sets apart the latest news that a Bangkok novel might make it to the big screen is that the interest shown in turning it in to a movie is local i.e. from within Thailand. My good friend Mark Jones penned Fear and Loathing in Pattaya, a fun novel set in Pattaya and published as an eBook that has enjoyed moderate success. Aussie producer Ric Lawes has adapted it to a screenplay and it may well see the light of day under the title, "Black Widow". David Asavanond, one of Thailand's most high profile actors, is said to have been lined up to play the lead role. They've got a multi-million dollar budget and filming is supposed to commence next month. Will this be the first novel from the Bangkok expat fiction genre to become a full movie production?
There have been no reports of police stopping pedestrians in and around the Asoke intersection area by day in some time, but police checkpoints near the Asoke intersection at night are common and the frequency of reports I receive about them suggests that these night-time police checkpoints may have intensified. One long-time Stickman reader, an Assistant District Attorney in the US no less, reported this week of his experience and he was less than impressed both with what happened and the aggression the cops showed towards him, especially when it was discovered that he had a money belt. While the only loss was a few minutes time and his dignity, he felt much worse for the experience.
There are countless online hotel reservations sites and most of us have our favourite. There are also many smaller niche bookings websites which promote specific types of properties. One such site is Bestpoolvillas.com, which lists only villas in Thailand. If you're looking to stay in a larger property in the likes of Pattaya, Phuket, Samui as well as various other tourist hot spots, check it out. What struck me is that in many cases the villas aren't that expensive and for the same rate you'd pay in a 5-star hotel you can get a beachside house with enough bedrooms to comfortably sleep a group. The site is run by a long-time foreign resident with experience in the travel industry in both his home country and Thailand.
Charley Brown's in a little sub soi off Sukhumvit soi 11 is Bangkok's oldest Mexican restaurant and will celebrate Cinco de Mayo tonight and tomorrow night with a special whereby purchasing a pitcher of their amazing Margaritas gets you four free shots of Jose Cuervo Tequila. This special is tonight and tomorrow only, from 5 PM.
Sunrise Tacos is Bangkok's most successful chain of Mexican restaurants and is also celebrating Cinco de Mayo. From tomorrow through to Wednesday Corona is just 135 baht, Chang beer 50 baht, Margaritas 135 baht and tacos 50 baht.
Chatting with a foreign chef working in Thailand this past week I was impressed with his attitude towards his relationship with his employer and the importance he placed on working legally. He was offered a job but the prospective employer ummed and ahhhed about getting him a work permit. They really wanted to employ him but did not want to go to the hassle of getting him the little blue book that keeps him legal. He dug his heels in and insisted that if he was going to work for them, they had to provide him with a work permit – and he would not start until the work permit was issued. He stuck to his guns and they relented. More people should do this. Too many employers drag their feet and make silly excuses when it comes to work permits which is just not good enough. It is the employee who will ultimately suffer if there are any problems, not the employer – so insist on the issuance of a work permit before you start work. And if they refuse, there's an argument that they may not be the sort of crowd you want to work for.
Service at bars and restaurants in Thailand these days can be poor. The reasons for this are varied and I won't go in to all of them, but that does not change the fact that service has deteriorated markedly from how things were several years ago. What makes it worse is that many establishments have the audacity to insist that customers reward poor service by levying a compulsory 10% service charge on the bill. Customers should not be asked to reward mediocrity and the service charge should be waived in the increasingly common instance when service is poor. With staff so hard to come by in Thailand at this time, service positions where English is required now command a premium and many wait staff in mid-range restaurants earn around 15,000 baht base salary, plus a share of the service charge which is paid at the end of the month, plus tips which are divvied up at the end of the shift. That can mean a take home pay well in excess of 20,000 baht per month, a decent salary in Thailand for someone without a tertiary education and more than teachers with several years experience earn. I have a suggestion. The role of service staff should be delivering food and clearing plates and tables. For ordering, an IPad / tablet can be fixed at tables. Electronic menus can be created professionally and have the full menu in both English and Thai (why not add Chinese and Russian too), with a wi-fi system set up so the order goes straight through to the kitchen so customers can order from their table without any interaction with wait staff. The tablet could double as an Internet-capable device to entertain customers while they wait for their food (conversation at the dinner table seems to be so last century). With fewer wait staff the establishment reduces labour costs and they can also eliminate the service charge, meaning customers also benefit. Wait staff in so many lower and mid-range restaurants in Bangkok seldom add anything to the dining experience these days – in fact they are often the cause of problems and disappointment. It would be a win : win situation for business owners and customers alike.
Reader's story of the week comes from Mega, "20 Years On".
A 5-year old boy is found locked inside a house in Pattaya
where his Dad's dead body had been laying for days.
Nahm Restaurant in Bangkok is voted 13th best restaurant in the world, while Gaggan comes in at 17th.
5 foreigners, a mix of Dutch and Norwegians, are arrested in Phuket and charged with ATM skimming offences.
A New Zealander, who was once a volunteer tourist policeman, caught dealing ya ba (methamphetamine) in Phuket is jailed.
58 people are arrested in the Philippines in what is being termed a major sextortion ring.
Accused paedophile Karl Joseph Kraus dies before trial in Chiang Mai.
Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: What is the process involved for a US citizen married to a Thai citizen in adopting her minor child in Thailand where no father is listed on the birth certificate?
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: Normal procedure requires that a petition be submitted to the Child Adoption Center in the Department of Social Development and Welfare at the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Consent is usually required from both biological parents but since there is no father listed it would be best to contact them when submitting the petition to see what they will require, i.e. they may go ahead without a father or they may require your wife find the biological father.
Preliminary requirements are:
1. Be at least 25 years of age and be at least 15 years older than the child to be adopted.
2. Be eligible to adopt a foreign child under the concerned law of country of domicile.
3. Have legitimate spouse in case of applying as a family.
Where you apply will depend on where the child is registered, for example if the child is registered at a house in Bangkok then you would contact the Rajvithi Home for Girls on Rajvithi Road. If outside of Bangkok then you must contact either the District Office or the Provincial Office of Social Development and Human Security which will be in the province's City Hall.
Question 2: In the case of an uncontested divorce, is it possible to do this while I am in the UK and she is in Thailand? That is, will the amphur accept our paperwork if I sign it and send it to Thailand and have witnesses go to the amphur to sign in front of the officer; or do I have to be in Thailand myself? It would be a difficult (for health reasons) and expensive trip just to sign a piece of paper, so I am hoping it is possible to do it via the post.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: If both parties mutually agree to register their divorce, both are required to attend the divorce registration process at a District Office. If you and your wife registered the marriage in Thailand or certified your marriage with the Thai Embassy / Consulate, you will have the option to either register the divorce in a District Office in Thailand or to register your divorce through the Thai Embassy / Consulate on a condition that both parties must attend. You can contact Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors to assist you in getting this process started and in contacting your wife to set the meeting. However, you will need to come to the District Office for the actual divorce proceedings.
A lot of Bangkok sites with a nightlife flavour have come over the years, and almost as many have gone as sites with a Bangkok nightlife theme are often taken offline when the owner decides it's time to pull the plug. What many of the more popular sites have had in common has been the age of the webmaster / main writer. In many cases they were in their 30s. In some cases late 20s and in other cases early 40s…but usually 30s or thereabouts. Given that traditionally many Westerners relocating to Bangkok have been older, this is noteworthy. What I however find surprising is that while many of the expats moving to Bangkok these days are younger guys – in their 20s and 30s – few new Bangkok-centric websites are popping up, all the more amazing given the computer skills of young guys these days who can whip together a website with their eyes closed. You'd think with so many young Westerners moving to Bangkok there would be plenty of new Bangkok-centric websites – but there aren't. Is it the Facebook phenomenon, or does it perhaps have something to do with the move towards accessing the net from mobile devices? I was surfing the other day looking for new, interesting Bangkok websites…and I didn't find much at all. The odd well-written article, yes, but as for independent sites put together with a passion, nada. I wonder why that is.
Your Bangkok commentator,